| A Country Study: South Korea
The Economic Future
The Korea Development Institute also forecasted in 1988 that South Korea's per capita GNP would exceed US$10,000 early in the twenty-first century. The institute predicted that Seoul would enjoy a higher sustained growth rate than average through the 1990s; that the manufacturing industry would play a pivotal role in the economy in the twenty-first century; and that the service industry would become knowledge-intensive in order to meet the needs of a highly diversified industrialized society. The share of the primary sector (agriculture, forestry, and fisheries) would sink to nearly 5 percent by the turn of the century, whereas the secondary sector (industry) would rise to over 40 percent and the service sector would be at about 55 percent. Major areas of industrial growth would include automobiles, electronics, and machinery.
In 1988 Kim Duk-choong of Sogang University listed five main points that were expected to make the "Korean economic future look bright." He noted that South Korea had drastically reduced its foreign debts since 1985, greatly increased the rate of domestic savings, improved on the equitable distribution of income throughout the population, increased the role of small and medium-sized corporations in the economy, and made the transition from a labor-oriented to a technology-oriented economy. He expected that these positive economic developments would easily outweigh existing problems and lead to real growth in years to come.
Kim's optimism had merit, but there were other important issues that could inhibit economic growth, for example, rising protectionist sentiments in the United States, Japan, and elsewhere. Another problem was the fact that the chaebol tended to restrict subcontracting and to keep as much production as possible inhouse, which meant that the smaller industries and businesses, which bore the brunt of slowdowns in Japan, would not be able to act as shock absorbers. Moreover, as South Korea moved up the technological ladder, it would face stiff competition from advanced nations like Japan and up-and-coming nations like Thailand. There also was the intangible problem of the resolve of South Korea's workers, who labored six days a week with little vacation time. What effect would a slackening of resolve have on the South Korean worker by the 2000? In general, the future of South Korea's economy looked very bright, but there were enough intangibles to make accurate predictions difficult at best.
There are numerous excellent works on the South Korean economy that offer a variety of perspectives. Historical studies charting the nation's colonial and modernization periods include Andrew C. Nahm's Korea under Japanese Colonial Rule and Ramon H. Myers' and Mark R. Peattie's The Japanese Colonial Empire, l895-1945. Donald S. Mcdonald's The Koreans provides information on the Korean economy from colonial times through contemporary society. Among the general works on the postwar economy are David I. Steinberg's South Korea's Economy and Chaebol, Han Sung-joo's and Robert Myers's Korea, Edward S. Mason et al.'s The Economic and Social Modernization of Korea, Jene K. Kwon's, Korean Economic Development, G. Cameron Hurst III's Korea 1988, Alice H. Amsden's Asia Next Giant, David S. Bell, Jr.'s, Bun Woong Kim's, and Chong Bun Lee's Administrative Dynamics and Development, Karl Maskowitz's From Patron to Partner, and The Rise of the Korean Economy by Byung-Nak Song.
Opposition groups' views of the South Korean economy are best expressed in Minjungsa's Lost Victory. The Far Eastern Economic Review publishes frequent articles on the economy, as does Asian Survey. For a South Korean perspective on the economy, articles in the English-language Korea Newsreview and the various publications of the Korean Economic Institute in Washington are valuable. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of June 1990
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